Hiring a wallpaper removal contractor can present some difficulties
because not all painters or paper hangers do removal.
After many years of removing wallpaper we find ourselves in the position of, ” having, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience“; namely we are experts. (At least that is what the dictionary claims.)
Seriously, though, we do know how to get the stuff off of walls.
People hire this job out because of a number of reasons, some of which are:
- they don’t know how to do it.
- they don’t want to do it because it is difficult and time consuming.
- they have started to do it and realize that they are damaging the walls and that they are in over their heads.
We have run into each of the above reasons and many more.
In this article we will give you some basic tips for removing wallpaper so that you will, 1. know how to do it, 2. not find it so difficult and 3. not damage the walls. Unfortunately, it is time consuming.
Getting the paper off the wall
The first thing when removing wallpaper is to determine the type of paper with which you are dealing. Ideally, it will be strippable paper and this is the type that this article will discuss. Strippable simply means that the top layer of paper can be stripped off dry; no water is necessary at this stage of the removal. When the top layer is removed you will be left with a backing which is usually a light tan in color and is pasted to the wall. You now need to remove the backing.
Primarily, this is a job for water.
We have found that it doesn’t much matter if the water is cold or hot, although, we typically start out with hot water, right out of the tap. We have never used a steamer. We have never found it necessary. Also, we have never run into anyone, expert or otherwise who has ever had a good thing to say about the use of a steamer. Now, please don’t take this statement as the last word on the use of steamers; it has just been our experience. No doubt there are people who use steamers and think that it is the only way to go.
We then add a product to the water called DIF. You will do this according to the recommended doses on the bottle.
A word about DIF
DIF® is the patented wallpaper stripper based on enzyme action for fast and easy removal of wall-coverings.
DIF is different from other wallpaper removers. It contains special enzymes – a unique formulation on which Zinsser (the manufacturer) holds patents. Moreover, it has a superior, more effective blend of wetting agents that speeds DIFs’ penetration of the wallpaper and resoulubilization of the paste.
In contrast to DIF, ordinary wallpaper removers, including (but not limited to) hot water, vinegar and water, Downey, and other “home brew” solutions, merely wet the paper and the paste, requiring a lot of scraping and do not work well except on loose sections. Softened paste tends to build up on the scraper blades, blunting it and leading to wall gouging. DIF eliminates damage to walls where removal of uncoated, water-permeable wallpaper is involved.
We have tried all of the different forms of DIF (spray bottle, gel, etc.) and have found that the concentrate is the way to go.
We mix this together in an ordinary garden type sprayer which can easily and relatively inexpensively be purchased at any box store. You just pump it up and away you go. We begin spraying at the top with a medium fine spray which you can adjust to your liking and wet the backing until it turns an even color indicating enough water. Try not to spray too much water on the backing, especially as you get towards the bottom third of the wall; the water will just run off, onto the floor, wasting the product and creating a mess. After we have all the backing wet we return to where we began and observe the color. If it has begun to lighten (it is being absorbed more completely and it is also beginning to dry) we then begin to wet it again, proceeding as before. Now, here comes, perhaps, the most important tip we can give you (drum roll please):
Let the water do the work.
The biggest mistake you can make with wallpaper removal is to try to get the backing off before the water has had time to completely soften the paste. You will end up gouging the wallboard. If you start removal and find that it is coming off with difficulty, STOP! Give the water more time…go read a book. In many, if not most cases the paper will almost literally fall off the wall if you give the water and DIF enough time to work.
Now, bear in mind that the above instructions are for strippable paper which we feel is the easiest to remove; it is the basic way to remove wallpaper and is a guide for other types of wallpaper. As an example, you may have paper that is not strippable and is impervious to water in which case the removal process is somewhat different.
This method is the one that we have employed for years and have have done so with wonderful success. That is not to say that we have not run into very difficult wallpaper removal jobs; we have and they are no fun at all. One example was of walls that had not been properly sized before the wallpaper was hung. This means that the wallpaper was pasted to unfinished drywall. Believe it when we say that that is a job you do not want to tackle. Fortunately, it’s a rare occurrence.
If you are thinking of removing wallpaper yourself we suggest researching other sites that give you instructions for wallpaper removal, especially if you run into circumstances other than discussed here. This article, as stated before only deals with the basics.
If you exercise patience and realize that this is not a task that should be taken as a “rush job” than you should find that you can do it fairly well; it’s not brain surgery.
An important part of wallpaper removal is preparing the walls after the paper is successfully removed. We suggest you read our article Wall Preparation after Wallpaper removal.